Friday, December 18, 2009

This might be our last post for 2009, thank you for following our adventures this year. We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Our friends Michelle Serros (author/writer) 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michele_Serros and Dean the Greek (artist) are here from the states visiting. Their airline was kind enough to loose their luggage, or I should say my luggage that has stuff we ordered from the states so it looks like some customs dude will be enjoying the gifts Ana and I got for each other. Welcome to Egypt! Michele will be our school’s visiting author and will do a presentation on Tuesday. Immediately following her gig, a swarm of teachers will be piling into a passenger van headed for Cairo as 3 pm is the official start of winter break. The four of us will spend Christmas in Cairo and play tourist. On the 26th the plan is to meet up with Joseph and Lianne and get on a plane bound for Casablanca, Morocco. Inshallah.

We have been way too busy. I’m on the board for the events planning at The American Cultural Center and we had our Christmas party last weekend. Ana had her students art show and winter concert last evening. Our director is having her holiday party tonight with live music…there was also suppose to a belly dancer but was talked out of it. Belly dancing is frowned upon and is equated with immoral behavior and prostitution.     

Saint Malcolm had too many Jack and Cokes and is trying to kick Santa

Mr. Greg is passionate about music and antibacterial handwash


We got to see Santa!

Mr. and Mrs. Claus 

Krazy Kristal and KupKake Seth

video
Better late than never!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Beirut Part Three

Our long Eid weekend was winding down and decided to cap the trip with a bus ride up to Jounieh; a bayside aspiring resort town located about 15 km north of Beirut. During the war the region was a safe haven for Christians. My impression was that it is more of a playground complete with a casino and a nightlife atmosphere evident by all the clubs and restaurants lining the streets. A passenger on our bus suggested that we pay a visit to the Virgin, meaning Our Lady of Lebanon aka Notre Dame du Liban-a bronze statue (painted white) situated on top of a steep hill overlooking the town and bay. He pointed out the most direct way to her was by taking the mono-cable gondola lift which is like a slow moving enclosed ski lift crossing over roads, a highway, and in-between people’s apartments (voyeurism with a twist). Not only am I’m terrified of heights, but enclosed spaces have been known to induce the occasional panic attack. Think of it as a buy one disorder get the second one free kind of Sunday afternoon.


The end of the line

The bus dropped us off on the side of the highway because that is how the transportation system rolls-you can get picked up and dropped off anywhere you want along a route. The trick was finding how to get to the other side. A friendly restaurant owner directed us towards an underpass. Once we arrived at the entrance to the gondola it quickly became the all too familiar dreaded feeling of waiting in line at a supermarket in Egypt, completely uncivilized. Fortunate for us, Ana and I befriended a couple of locals and we created an alliance keeping the infidels at bay and preserving the concept of a line with operation “wait your damn turn!” 


On the trip up

The line was long, almost an hour to purchase ticket plus an additional thirty minutes to get to the lift. Another passenger in queue fainted just moments before our gondola arrived, it was good boost to get my anxiety firing on all pistons. When our car arrived, we boarded and I immediately closed my eyes for the duration of the ride. I lied, I took an occasional peek at the surrounding scenery, especially into stranger’s apartments…kidding. The crescent shaped bay was stunning; it was the million-dollar view. Awaiting our arrival was the Virgin along with thousands of other thrill-ride jockeys and curiosity seekers. Our visit on the summit was short and sweet. We entertained the thought of returning to the bottom via a taxi until we learned a new pair of new sneakers might cost less. The trip back down was cake, we were slightly amused by passengers in passing baskets yelling random statements at us.


Notre Dame du Liban

The view

I chatted with my friend Patrick back in CA who once upon a time was a bona fide citizen of Beirut. He related his experience of going to see the Virgin in a car as scout badge worthy overcoming the trials of hairpin curves up and down the mountain. After some research I learned a bit of folklore that “unmarried” couples take advantage of the gondola to enjoy some intimate time together in the nine or so minutes it takes to get from point A to point B. Consider the above statement in the context of living in the Middle East where it is next to impossible for an unmarried couple to check into a hotel together. Sometimes you have to applaud people’s problem solving abilities.   


Checking out the neighbors

Ana ensuring our safe landing

We returned from Jounieh hitting Beirut’s enormous indoor shopping center. I found a pair of shoes and lottery scratchers in Arabic. The supermarket inside the mall was giving out samples of wine, liqueurs, and yogurt.

We returned back to Gemmayze and paid a visit to Stewart at The Bulldog for a suggestion of a nice place to have our last meal. Joe Pena’s Tex-Mex was the verdict despite the mental scar of our Mexican food experience back in Istanbul. Call us Mexican food deprived, maybe we’ve been in Egypt far too long and our palates have gone astray but Joe’s attempt was admirable. It wasn’t quite like home but it satisfied our cravings. Thank you Beirut.     

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Beirut Part Two

We had met Stewart on our first night. Ana and I ventured around Gymmayze on a quest for a quiet place to decompress and found The Bulldog pub off the main path. The setting was quiet as the crowd was reduced to a couple of people gathered in a corner at the end of the bar. Our attraction to this establishment was the lonesome beer tap and my thinking was the last time we had seen a beer on tap was the first week of August, so it was a no-brainer that we would find ourselves enjoying a pint of Lebanese brew. 

Finding conversation with the locals was easy, Stewart was the owner and we talked quite a bit about the city and beyond. He had offered to take us on an excursion to Baalbek, a site of Roman period temple ruins near the Syrian boarder in the Bekaa Valley. He offered the right price and we accepted. I know this kind of behavior on our part might seem slightly radical, perhaps dangerous to our friends back home, I mean who accepts an invitation to go on a day trip in a foreign country with a complete stranger, apparently we did. 


Hard to imagine the scale

We decided on a time in the late morning to meet up with Stewart and his month old puppy Lizzy. Ana is deathly afraid of dogs so she rode shotgun while Lizzy slept on my lap during the almost two hour ride through mountains and valleys past military check points and over rebuilt bombed out bridges.



Ana in the corner

Baalbek/ Heliopolis (City of the Sun) was more than amazing. Ana and I had been to Rome and did all the obligatory sights and I must admit Baalbek ups the ante; there is no comparison. If someone told me aliens built the structure, such reasoning might not be far fetched considering the leading theory argues that the columns for the Temple of Jupiter were from Aswan, Egypt…meaning that 128 rose granite seventy-foot columns somehow arrived by land and sea. That my friend is the million-dollar question to this mystery of the ancient world. If you ever had the itch to feel insignificant, this is your kind of destination.


A fallen top...note the poppy carvings

Stewart entertained the thought of what the nomadic desert dwellers must had experienced upon their initial encounter with Baalbek back in the heyday, as to say when the joint was hopping. The poor Bedouins (or the equivalent) must have shit their camels when they crossed over the Anti-Lebanon Mountain Range into Bekaa Valley and came upon Heliopolis. Never mind that there was probably opium and wine waiting inside. 


Inside

Baalbek is Hezbollah territory, in addition to postcards, books, and replica Roman coins at one of the many souvenir booths lining the entrance to Heliopolis you can also get a Hezbollah t-shirt and flag for your loved ones. About two kilometers down the road is a Palestinian camp located on the outskirts of town. I talked Stewart into indulging us in the experience of entering it. We definitely didn’t belong. Most of the kids had toy guns and were shooting at one another. I remembered playing Cowboys and Indians growing up, I wondered if they were playing Martyr and Infidel? We searched for a couple of souvenirs but settled on taking a couple of photos and that was the point we were brought into the command center for questioning. The head of the camp was enjoying his afternoon sheesha and had a small chat with Stewart in Arabic; this was enough to guarantee our peaceful exit. According to Stewart this was one of the more civilized camps in the country. Palestinians have no rights in Lebanon, in other words they don’t have much left to lose?


What me worry?

Outside the command center

Our trip ended with a visit to Caves De Ksara, the major wine producer in Lebanon. We tasted four offerings and toured the caves beneath the winery. The drive back to Beirut was quiet and pleasant.


Vino!

Sight of the cave

One of the samplings

We skipped dinner in lieu of a small bucket of popcorn in the lobby prior to catching a film at the festival...there had been much talk about the film we wanted to see and the line was long. We made it into the theatre just as the lights dimmed and found our seats (yes, they are numbered) but we really could have sat anywhere. I counted 6 other people…so much for all the hype. The projector started to roll as did the Arabic soundtrack, pretty unusual beginning for a Swiss film I thought. No sooner than uttering those very words, we wondered out loud if we were in the right place. Oops. We did make it to the right show and on time thanks to a minor delay.

The evening ended at Club 43 (non-profit, and volunteer run establishment) two doors down from our guesthouse. We ordered hummus and baba ganoush and were served a complementary shot of what might have been a Lebanese version of a margarita. The cafĂ© makes their own beer and wine and when I tried to order a glass of their homebrew I was initially denied, the server said that it wasn’t that good and offered me a commercial brand. Now, that made me more determined to try one and after much coaxing my request was finally granted. It was more drinkable than Egyptian beer. I also tried their red wine and thought it was pretty decent. It seemed most patrons came for the open wine and cheese menu, why wouldn’t you, for $30/person you can have all the cheese and wine to your heart’s content. The Club offers themed nights such as movie, karaoke, and there was even a poster for a non-smoking evening-that was literally the event.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Beirut Part One

Driving from Alexandria to Cairo on the eve of the Eid holiday was not the smartest choice we could have made, we came within an hour of missing our flight. Once we boarded the plane, it occurred to me that Beirut’s Middle East Airlines lost their entire fleet of planes back in the day as a means of retaliation from Israel; our hope was that the Christians, Muslims, Jews, Druze, etc. would behave. In the back of my mind lays the thought of how fragile relations are in this region of the world and can turn at any moment. When the taxi dropped us off at Mady’s Guesthouse, despite the late hour, Ana and I felt deserving to venture out for a night cap in one of the establishments lining our street. We settled on The Bulldog; a friendly low-key English style pub. As far as I know it was the only joint that had brew on tap. We chatted with the proprietor Stewart who would later be a most gracious host for the duration of our visit.

The following morning started off with “spaceship for sale” tagged on the wall between our guesthouse and a grocers market. This statement reaffirmed the hip Gemmayze neighborhood was the perfect location to spend our holiday.


We looked for it. 


This empty box was outside our guesthouse, guess they knew I was coming.

The majority of our first afternoon was dedicated to browsing retail stores desperately on a quest for shoes and apparel since Egypt is littered with clothes that aren’t suitable to our tastes; I know that sounds snobbish, but we try to steer clear of mismatched patterns and plastic sequins. Solids are more our taste. Call us boring.


A view of the hood.

Typical buildings in the hood.

Lunch was spent at Le Chef, a quaint hole in the wall serving traditional Lebanese home cooking with a rotating daily menu. The French-Arabic-English speaking owner (?) shouted “welcome” to every person entering his establishment. The service, food, and atmosphere were exceptional, Ana tried the mloukhieh; meat and chicken over rice accompanied by an onion/garlic/lemon juice sauce, a bowl of soaked mlukhieh (think spinach), and dried aish (flatbread). The idea is to use your fingers to shred the meat on the mound of rice then drench the threesome with the onion/lemon broth followed by a generous pour of the slimy mlukhieh (the result is akin to a beach covered with kelp) finally add pieces of broken bread and enjoy. If you don’t follow the exact steps or add the appropriate amount of toppings patrons in the vicinity are more than anxious to offer you their unsolicited advice to correct the errors of your ways. Like most restaurants in the area, in addition to serving food, cigarettes and drinks of all variety were available including Arak-a traditional highly potent anise flavored clear alcohol drink that is mixed with water (1:2 ratio). I passed because if it is anything like the Raki I had from Turkey then I know how quickly an evening can turn problematic.


I'm going to steal this name. 

See a theme?

It was our luck to be in town for the start of a European Film Festival, so a movie per night was in order. Expect full reviews in the near future. The night ended with another visit to The Bulldog.

Sure, why not.

French Beirut Crack.

During the day, its’ hard not to experience the pain of the city and country’s past, somehow I was sadden because everyone we met throughout our trip had been directly affected by war in one or another. Despite the large death toll and destruction, people remained friendly, kind, and cautiously optimistic. There had to have been some serious reconciliation in order for people to work together and rebuild a country and city they love; their spirit of tolerance and acceptance is unmatched. Though the stability of Lebanon is still a work in progress, there is no doubt they will overcome.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sorry!!!

We arrived safely in Beirut. Hectic week at work. Will post more shortly. Found an empty box of Sombrero Negro tequila outside our hotel, now at a cafe called Tequila...coincidence? First time out of Egypt...hells yeah!!!  Will post something real soon. 
xoxo
Bob y Ana

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Warden Message, God, and Soccer

This warden message is being issued to alert U.S. citizens residing and traveling in Egypt that on Saturday, November 14, 2009, at approximately 7:30 p.m., a soccer match will take place between the Egyptian and Algerian national teams. The game will be held at the Cairo Stadium in Nasr City. This event will negatively impact traffic in the surrounding areas and will include large crowds and heightened passions.

On the way down to Coptic Cairo this past Saturday we were right outside of Giza when I made the suggestion to Ana that we should stay and try to get tickets to the Egypt and Algeria game. Right then I knew I just uttered the wrong statement with her non-response and glare. I thought it was a good idea. The organizer of the trip chimed in breaking the awkward silence and mentioned that the game has been sold out and it would be impossible to get tickets. I told her we could go to the VIP door and flash our passports and say that we are guests from the embassy and forgot our invitation letters back at the hotel. That got a couple of good chuckles…”hey guys, I’m serious!” was all I could offer before officially being dismissed.

Our first stop of the morning was Saint Samaan Monastery which has a church built into a side of a hill quasi amphitheater style. Once we turned off the major road we went through an economically depressed neighborhood, most of the buildings were inhibited by piles garbage and children surrounded by swarms of flies picking out the recyclable material in the darkened doorways. As our van navigated through the narrow and crowded dirt path it became clear that once the garbage had been sorted out a truck or a donkey pulling a cart moved the recycled material to its’ proper location. There were buildings designated for tin foil, nylon sacks, clarified butter tins, and about everything else you could think of. The material is then bundled and large trucks from the outside enter the neighborhood to collect and haul it off. We followed the path up the hill and went through a short underpass and just like that the hazy gray sun of Cairo was shinning down on us. Somehow the transition from poverty and darkened streets to light and open space was undeniably surreal.


Outside St. Samaan Monastery

Partial wall painting

Our next stop was Coptic Cairo, which is connected to old Cairo, the hub of Christianity in Egypt. In Coptic Cairo you will find The Hanging Church, The Monastery and Church of Saint George, and several other active churches including a Coptic Museum and the highly fortified Ben Ezra Synagogue. The most interesting of the batch was the basement of The Church of St. George, which is maintained by the resident nuns. One of the rooms has the original iron collar and chain that was used to torture St. George, those willing are allowed to place the collar around their neck and wrap themselves in the chain to seek a blessing from the saint. The ritual ends with the kissing of both the collar and chain. Ana and I both participated in the ritual and in retrospect I still feel unsettled by the experience.


Prayer Candles


Public Enemy is popular with Grade 3 boys..."Fight The Power"


Our Coptic Cairo Organizer hangin' at the Nunnery

By the time we left Cairo the city was already filling up fans and was in full soccer mode. Bodies were sticking out of the cars, giant flags covered back windows of vehicles, vendors on the streets hocking flags and Egyptian Cat In The Hat hats, kids running amok with flag capes…it looked like it was going to be a good one, lively to say the least. In a couple of emails I told friends about the game casually mentioning if Egypt wins there will be chaos in the streets and if they lose there will be chaos in the streets….

I thought I knew about sports fanaticism growing up in Denver following the Broncos and the whole concept of the fans being the “twelfth man.” Egypt ups the ante in ways you cannot imagine. Here the concept of a national soccer match occurs on many different levels; there is the obvious one on the field, the one in the stands, and the one on the streets. When the Algerian team arrived in Cairo they were greeted with stones causing injury to a couple of their players, however the consensus of the Egyptian population are crying foul claiming that the players were never hurt, that the event was just a dirty trick to get the game moved out of Cairo to a neutral location. The driver of the team’s bus even stated there was no broken glass on the inside of the bus and there are medical experts claiming that the bandage on the player’s head was as phony as a three-dollar bill. Following the match the fans in the stadium weren’t released until the Algerian team safely departed-under the security of a heavy motorcade.

When we returned back to Alexandria, Ana and I were dropped off at a mall to meet up with a couple of Egyptian co-workers (Abeer and Mai) to watch the match at one of the cafes or in our case a makeshift one. Most legit cafes and restaurants were already sold out. We found a pizza joint on the top floor with about 150 plus chair crammed in front of their two wall-mounted televisions and at 20 EGP a head it was quite the deal. The sound on the TV was cranked at full volume which translated into a loud and angry buzzing static, patrons compulsively and nervously puffed on cigarettes, a clown banged on a drum, there was shouting, flag waving, and chanting…it was pretty tame compared to outside. Egypt scored a goal within the first few minutes and the country erupted into a deafening frenzy. Egypt needed to beat Algeria by three goals to qualify for the World Cup OR two goals to force a tie-breaker which meant another match against Algeria; basically a simple 1-0 win wasn’t going to amount to much. Any hope of Egypt scoring another goal dwindled as the score remained 1-0 with only a couple minutes remaining. Disappointed and disillusioned, fans abandoned their chairs in hordes. It seemed only a miracle could save the night and just as the prospect of scoring any sort of goal weeded out the last of the naysayers, it happened…a second coming of sorts, the parting of the Red Sea version 2.0. GOAL! GOAL! GOAL! Or as they say back home Goooooooooooooaaaaaaalllll! The handful remaining of us faithful fans made more than enough noise for the departed; chairs were hit against the tiled floor, babies tossed in the air, there was hugging, kissing, dancing, banging…it was a symphony of uninhibited and unapologetic excitement and celebration. The nation was elated and that was just at the end of the match as the night was still young…

There is more to the story that entails unruly pirate boys…the tie-breaker match will be played in Sudan on Wednesday only then will it be decided who will go to the World Cup in South Africa in 2010.

Abeer and her son proudly cheer Masr

video

video

Monday, November 9, 2009

Only in Egypt

In my last post I had mentioned that Ana went to a pre-Halloween party wearing face paint looking like a calavera (skeleton) and received much local folk attention from doing so. I would wager that most Egyptians in our neighborhood are unaware of the holiday thus making me half tempted to paint my face to venture out and buy vegetables or a rotisserie chicken from down the street. I have shopped this idea around to a couple of other seasoned teachers and most feared that I might be chased with the infamous homemade nail in the 2” x 4” club or at the very least have people shout not-so-friendly Arabic phrases that involve goats, sheep, and/or donkeys at me. It might be a good social experiment in the future once I get a little more nerve to seek a Darwin Award, for now I’m keeping the idea on the backburner. 

Abdo getting hit in the face with a heavy wet sponge

The key is hidden inside

Yuck!

Don't try this at home

Our school had a Halloween Carnival under the moniker “Fall Festival” marking a 14-hour day at the office. Thankfully it was a teacher workday to get report cards completed which left the remainder of the afternoon and evening dedicated to getting people and the school grounds wet and messy. The top-billed events included a haunted house and several water themed booths such as a wet sponge in the face game, dropping water balloons on people’s heads from two flights up a fire escape, and sink the teacher/student game (a plank tied on to a giant inner tube that floated in the middle of a swimming pool where the participant paid for chances to throw large rubber balls at the person standing on the plank with objective of hitting them with the ball and making them fall into the pool). Other games include throwing rolls of toilet paper into a toilet from a distance, climbing a tree to ring a bell without falling off.


Scary family no. 1

Purple Ana

Our booth was physically on the tame side. Another teacher and I co-teach an advisory class and our students wanted our offer “shave the balloon” and “find the key.”  Shaving the balloon involved putting shaving cream on a balloon and kids using a razor to shave it. It was remarkable on how few balloons popped. Finding the key game was a little more intense, especially for those with texture issues and/or a weak stomach.  Basically I carved out four pumpkins and filled them with foodstuffs that started to decompose. Initially the games were unpopular, but as the night progressed, we had quite a few customer and a handful of returning ones, a few who I can see working in a field relating to biology or the local morgue. To my surprise there was fortune-telling booth comprised of reading cards and coffee grinds. This is religiously forbidden in Islam, which is known as 3aram (the 3 is pronounced ahh, making it ahh-rom). What can I say, who doesn’t love a sinner. The night ended with a high school dance in which I heard about a dozen people attended.

Teens with a bun in the oven was a popular costume this year

Not really Halloween related, but we saw this inside a coffee shop, not your regular Starbucks. 

On a side note, several of you have inquired about sending Ana and I care packages. Thank you for the thoughtfulness, but please don’t. First it will cost you a ton of money. Secondly, customs will open the package (and they like snacks as much as we do). Finally, we have to pay an outrageous import/customs fee for half-eaten box of Pop-Tarts. We have also sent out lots of letters and postcards, some people have received them while some remain MIA. Let us know if you haven’t received anything from us.
     

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shitta and Kaka

Monday. We hit the French Cultural Centre for the first night of the week-long Latin American Film festival. The problem with most films that hit theaters in Egypt is that they arrive highly edited…so it was nice to watch a movie the way it was intended-sans any sort of censorship. The term director’s cut takes on a whole new meaning here. We saw Esas No Son Penas (Ecuador), a slow moving heavy drama of five female friends who are entering mid-life and all the issues that come with the territory. The best part of the film was the Arabic subtitles.    

Tuesday. We were invited to the American Cultural Center for its’ 30th Anniversary celebration. The joint looked loaded full of important people, but I suppose if you dress anyone up in suit and tie or an evening dress commands some sort of attention. The finger foods were delicious; the best of the trays were the grilled chicken, dolmathes (stuffed grape leaves), and pastries.  As an added bonus (thanks to the commissary in Cairo) California Cabernet was being served. Ambassador Margaret Scobey delivered a speech detailing the history of the long friendship between the United States and Egypt. Gwen, the director of the center kindly made a point to take a moment out of her hectic schedule to introduce Ana and I to a couple of important people involved with the arts in Alexandria as well as the Ambassador. 

The VIP of the American Center-he took good care of me!

Wednesday. It was double-hitter night at The Russian Cultural Center. The evening kicked off with an art opening of paintings turned digital wall hangings of “abstract depictions of horses in motion and other subjects” by Russian artist Gary Zukh. I would say Gary’s demeanor was low key and humble, on par with a couple of outsider artists I met while living in The South. The artist reception was followed by Youth of Siberia Russian Dance ensemble and friends. We had the opportunity to preview the dance group the previous week and declared it was a must see. The theatre was situated in the lush courtyard of the Center. Some audience members couldn’t break away from their smoking or jabbering habit long enough to sit through an hour plus performance. Towards the latter half of the evening during one of the dances, a sonic boom of electronic instruments (could it finally be rock music in Egypt?) clashed with the Russians. The hybrid of sounds infuriated about everyone present, a few curious people wandered off, never to return. We behaved and sat through the final remaining routines and bolted off across the narrow avenue in search of live rock. Leave it to the Germans to be the spoiler of the night. The music was indeed live and coming from the rooftop of the German Cultural Center. Ana and I climbed up the fire escape stairs to a full-on party of mostly college age Egyptian boys and the occasional female flirting with the notion of dancing. Of course the concert isn’t complete without a vendor selling grilled cheese sandwiches with cubes of meat and cups hot Lipton Tea. The music could be described as indie rock infused with Arabic melodies.

The art of Gary Zukh

One of the costumes

video

Thursday. In short, Ana went her way and I went mine. Ana along with a Huck Finn, Jill Milk, and Don’t Pollute dressed in costume and went to a Halloween party about 45 minutes on the other side of town. Ana was a calavera (skeleton) and spooked many people en route including cab drivers and children. I ventured off with Darth Seth and Lianne for the Hash House Harrier Taxi Grand Prix 2009. The best way to describe the event is to think of a small scale version of The Amazing Race done solely in taxi cabs racing from pub to pub. Our efforts got us second place and sofa bound the following day.

Don't Pollute, Ana, Huck Finn, and Jill Milk

Hash House Harriers Taxi Grand Prix 2009 Trophy

Inside the Spitfire Pub-they asked not to be photographed since they were important Americans

Friday. Surfs up! I woke up early to hit the end of a two day swell. I tried a new spot near the Bibliotheca (Shatby). I drew a huge crowd of supporters who watched me get crushed and tossed in series of powerful and fast closeouts. I made it home back in time to join Ana and Barb (teacher) for lunch and felt hunting. The three of us piled in a taxi and made our way down to Mansheya, home to the fabric shop district. We hit a couple of shops trying to locate the hard to find felt and got caught in a Bermuda Triangle of sorts. The shop keeper was very insistent in helping us. He took our sample material and the paper we had info on and ran off. Long story short; I figured he liked the ladies (the owner had a crush on Barb and referred to her as our "mom") and really wanted hard to please everybody, he found what we needed, provided us with tea, coffee, and Arabic lessons while we patiently waited…all of this in 90 minutes. Again, this is what I love about the Egyptians; they make things happen even if it means going to someone else’s shop and buying the goods to resell at a slightly higher price of course. Si se puede!

He wanted me to e-mail this pix to him

Saturday. Lobna (the French teacher) and her daughter properly introduced The Bibliotheca to us. The Bibliotheca is a resurrection, version 2.0, “a commemoration of the Library of Alexandria that was lost in antiquity” it also serves as a cultural hub housing facilities for the visual and performing arts in addition to a planetary science and conference center…you can call it the Swiss Army Knife of culture. We spent a couple of hours combing through artifacts of Alexandrian history from the Pharaohs to the Romans to the Christians ending with Islam. We also had a chance to view ancient manuscripts in an area what I would regard as “the cave” due to its’ lack of lighting. There wasn’t enough time in a day tour the entire facility; at least we have another adventure with Lobna to look forward to. Later in the evening Ana and I returned back to Mansheya to attend an acapella concert preformed by Malga Roma Alpine Choir at St. Catherine’s Catholic Church. The somber performance paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Italian war memorial at El Alamein. On the way home our taxi driver said that there was going to be shitta (rain) this week as we drove past the fruit vendor selling kaka (persimmons).           

Stolen from Wiki-thanks Wikipedia

The Shepherd